The University of Oregon senior overcame a serious “wardrobe malfunction” to win a thrilling men’s 5,000 meter final Friday night.
A legend was born Friday night at John McDonnell Field at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Galen Rupp stepped onto the track for the final of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Men’s 5,000m Final having already won the collegiate cross-country championship the previous fall, three events (including a relay) at the collegiate indoor championships in February, and the 10,000 meters, for his sixth NCAA title, the previous night. So he was a marked man. But Rupp could not have known what that would come to mean once the race got started.
In a tightly bunched first lap another runner clipped Rupp’s heel and his right shoe came off. He stopped to put it back on and found himself in last place, some 25 meters behind the pack, when he resumed running. Shrewdly, Ryan Sheridan of Iona College threw in a surge in the hope that Rupp would expend too much energy in chasing down the pack to have any chance of winning. Fortunately for Rupp, however, the surge did not last and the group settled back into a slowish pace (4:40 at 1600 meters) that enabled Rupp to regroup after regaining contact.
Nevertheless, Rupp remained near the back of the field, not his usual position, leaving observers to wonder if he would be able to hang on. With four laps remaining, Stanford’s Chris Derrick took the lead and increased the pace. All 15 of the other men in the race stayed with him. Rupp stayed near the back for another lap and then swung wide and mowed down all but three of the runners ahead of him in a remarkably short distance.
With 600 meters to go–the same point at which he had kicked in the previous night’s 10,000m–Rupp shifted up another gear and dropped everyone except NAU’s David McNeil, who hung on gamely until the thether snapped with about 200 meters remaining. Rupp crossed the line first by a comfortable margin at 14:04.2, having covered the last 1,600 meters in an astonishing 4:00.08.
McNeil hung on for second place while Derrick, just a freshman, claimed the third spot.